Police in Chatham-Kent are investigating anti-LGBTQ messages defacing picnic tables painted by artists
In a story viewed on TikTok more than a million times, a rainbow picnic table that had been burned and vandalized is repaired and repainted with a poignant message: "love wins."
It happened at a park in Dresden, Ont., a community of about 2,400 in Chatham-Kent.
The table was one of several, on various themes, that volunteer artists came together and painted through the community organization Dresden Shines earlier this summer.
Morena McDonald, who created the table's original design and worked on updates along with artist Sarah Steele, said the video was shared on the Dresden Night Market TikTok to respond to the incident in a positive way.
"I just wanted to showcase us just changing the conversation, or changing the message that happened on the table," McDonald said.
The story, however, didn't end with what's shown on the video.
This week, some of the picnic tables were vandalized a second time. Images shared with CBC News show anti-LGBTQ messages, including threats, scrawled across the tables. In a follow-up video posted to TikTok, one of the tables was shown with big patches of damage to its surface.
The group has since repaired the latest damage in an attempt to "fight ugly with pretty, fight hate with love," Steele said.
"Instead of really ruminating over the ugly words that were left behind, we are sticking with the idea that it's a small, small, small population of people that unfortunately exists, and we just have to keep proving to them that we're not going to respond with anger," Steele said.
"We're just gonna respond with more love and hopefully, as long as it takes, that's what will win eventually."
One picnic table in the park that was heavily damaged has been painted all black, and the hope is to get the community to contribute to the art and share their own messages.
Police seeking surveillance footage
Chatham-Kent police are investigating the vandalism.
In a media release on Tuesday, the police service said that sometime between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday several picnic tables at Stranak Park were defaced with red permanent marker.
"The Chatham-Kent Police Service is investigating this mischief as a hate-motivated incident due to the nature of the messages," the police service said.
They are asking the public to check their surveillance cameras for footage that could be evidence in the incident.
McDonald and Steele said they plan to post another update to the TikTok page soon.
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